Travel observation 1: moment

I did a fair share of writing on my laptop while I was zipping around Europe. So I thought I’d start a little theme here for the next few entries — just a few admittedly self-indulgent observations. This first one is simply about travel itself…

The real challenge with travel is living in the moment. One’s mind has to fight the urge to compose the future story as it’s taking place. This is the arrogance of travel and everyone falls victim to it in varying degrees. It’s why some people refuse to take pictures. They want to exist in the moment as much as possible. (Incidentally, this is also why “perfect moments” are such profound things; that’s the point when you’ve let all that go.)

There is a curious side effect of this continual future-vision. People who travel fall into a trap of seeing the current adventure as a test run. It’s this feeling that maybe you’re not doing it quite right, or you didn’t have enough time, or you somehow missed the genuine experience, but dammit, next time you’ll know and you’ll finally ‘get it.’ Travelers love to talk to other travelers about traveling. One of the common phrases, and I say this as well, is: “When I come back…” Chances are you’ll never come back, and there’s really no reason to. There are other adventures to be had. And the truth is, whatever it is you’re doing, you’re doing it. It’s no fact-finding mission, you’re simply existing in unfamiliar territory and you’re trying to absorb the reality of that.

I wish I could live my own advice. I try. But I know as it happens that I’ll be blogging it later, and I’ll be putting photos up on Facebook, complete with descriptions and tags. Maybe next trip I’ll counterbalance this by bringing some Lao-tzu with me. (…and there I go again: “next trip…” see how easy it is?)

A further fringe aspect of this is that you want to talk about it when you get back. Sometimes you want to scream about it. And you’re constantly aware of this eventuality. The problem is that no one really wants to listen, not to the depth that you feel compelled to tell anyway. This is why travelers talk to other travelers, and why it’s so easy to meet people on the road. But getting back is not easy. It’s depressing. To go from having new experiences and meeting new people every single day, to suddenly finding yourself in your previous, familiar pattern… it’s hard. So you want to talk.

I think its why this future-mind keeps cycling. With no one else to fully share it with in the future, you do the future-talk with yourself as it happens. As weird as it sounds, it’s a kind of coping mechanism.

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2 Responses to “Travel observation 1: moment”

  1. The three parts of travel seem to me to be almost equal – planning, doing and remembering. It helps a lot to have someone to remember with – actually to do all three with. Scrapbooks, photos, pictures in magazines get one excited, but hearing someone else describe his reactions to places you have been are really great. It’s like introducing someone you love to someone else you love and watching their interaction.

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